A simple way of achieving work-life balance

A new study has looked into the impact of setting boundaries - and how organisational 'gatekeepers' can make or break them.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 29 Jun 2020
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Food for thought

It’s hard to find a business leader who doesn’t want to improve their work-life balance. Being able to step away from the office is not only important for your own personal relationships and wellbeing, it’s also better for productivity. 

The problem is that stepping away is usually easier said than done. Technology, for all the benefits it brings, is usually one of the major culprits - the beep signalling a potentially important email dropping into your inbox is pretty hard to ignore, even if you’ve settled in for the 10 o’clock news.

A soon-to-be-published study in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour has looked into the impact of technological intrusions on work-life balance and how to alleviate the effects. 

Over 500 school teachers were asked to record the weekly total of out-of-hours intrusions they received over five weeks; and whether they were expected to respond to them. 

Teachers were chosen, the researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said, because it is generally assumed that there are distinct boundaries between their school life and home life - even though that often proves not to be the case. 

The fact that teachers were now more likely to be working remotely - as a result of the coronavirus pandemic - also meant they were more likely to feel the intrusive affects of technology.  

The study found that those who were better at establishing boundaries, usually by muting work-related notifications and alerts, generally had a lower perception of intrusion, and thus a better sense of work-life balance.

It sounds like pretty obvious stuff, but the study came to another conclusion, about the relationship between the employees and wider stakeholders. The behaviour of “border keepers” - in a school's case parents and head teachers - was crucial not only on the teacher’s ability to establish boundaries in the first place, but also maintain them. 

“Stakeholders can influence an employees’s control,” says YoungAh Park, one of the researchers behind the study. “When you have supportive leaders who model behaviours for work-life balance and work effectively with employees to creatively solve work-life conflicts, that translates into less stress for teachers through boundary control.”


 

Image credit: jayk7 via Getty Images. 

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